It was obvious Gideon’s abrupt intrusion caught Lilia by surprise, but she replied evenly with a polite smile.
"Of course. I’ll see you later then, Art!" She waved at me, bowing towards Gideon before running off to the heart of the party.
"You know that young female cohort of yours likes you, right?" Gideon scratched his cheek awkwardly as his gaze followed Lilia’s figure.
"I know," I responded simply.
"You two seem to get along, though. You’re not going to do anything about it?" he pressed.
"She’s someone that has had her life changed by me. More so than the feeling of like or love, it’s something more akin to gratefulness that she feels. She doesn’t know that now, but later in the future, I’m sure she’ll distinguish the two on her own," I answered with a shrug, taking another sip of my cider.
"You know, even when you say something disgustingly conceited like that, it doesn’t sound vain coming from you." Gideon smirked, taking a small sip of his wine.
"Because I don’t mean it in a conceited way. To her, I am something like a hero who saved her life. She may have fantasies about a relationship between us like any young girl about her idol, but that doesn’t mean she is in love with that person; it’s more of an infatuation," I explained. "Anyway, I’m sure you’re not here to give me love counseling. What is it that you wanted to discuss?"
"Why does it feel like I’m talking to someone my age? But yes, you’re right. How did your sister like the present you so kindly took from me?" He changed the subject, sitting down on the floor while leaning against the wall.
"Received as compensation, not ’took,’" I corrected, wagging my finger. "And I haven’t given it to her yet. I will, later."
"Right. Well, after refining the blueprint and creating a plan, I sent it in to the Council of Dicathen. They approved it and it is undergoing a construction plan right away," he announced, his usual joking manner nonexistent.
After the founding of the Six Lances, the Three Kings and Queens of Dicathen had come together and announced to the public that the current monarchy of each of the three kingdoms would be changing into one Council for all of Dicathen. This decision wasn’t really up for debate but it did bring some groups to rebel against it. For now, the location of the Council of Dicathen was unknown with the only source of communication available through some trusted individuals while major broadcasts were publicized through each City’s Governor.
"Congratulations. I’m sure they rewarded you well for that," I said sincerely, holding up my glass.
"Bah, money is just a means to an end for me. Gold is but a useless commodity that only has use in buying stuff actually useful to me. But you—you’re an asset that I do not want to let go. What is it you want, brat? Money? Power? Knowledge? I can give you all of that if you are more open to me about what you know as well." He got up, his beady eyes gleaming with curiosity.
"I don’t intend to change how the world works for my own benefit. This Continent is doing just fine without any of it," I retorted, making my intentions clear.
"So you’re saying you have ideas for inventions capable of changing how this world works? Fascinating..." His ears must’ve only heard what he wanted to hear because I wasn’t getting through to him.
Imbuing mana into my voice, I growled in a low tone so only he could hear. "Mr. Gideon, let me make it clear that I’m not here to indulge your selfish curiosities."
The tone in my voice appeared to have shook him up a bit, as he nearly jumped.
"Well you sure sobered me up real quick. Yeah, I guess you’re right. How about a give and take then? I’m not asking for world-changing inventions like that steam engine you gave me. I just want to get to know how you think, really. I’ll be your personal benefactor for whatever you need. Really, I’m desperate, brat. Don’t make this old man plead anymore." Surprisingly, His voice sounded sincere this time.
This was what I planned for but I didn’t want to give in to his wishes too easily, so I persisted. "Can I take your word for it?"
"Of course! What do you take me for? I’m a man of my word. You’re quite a family man so I understand why you were so interested in that Phoenix Wyrm necklace. I may not be a great mage but I know my way around artificing and magic implementation theory. Hell, you need some allowance for school, right? So how about it? Yeah?" His beady eyes and electrocuted hair made him look even more pitiful.
Sticking my hand out, I shot him a business smile that I’m sure made him think twice for what he had just gotten himself into.
The party eventually came to an end after the bell rang for midnight, making it officially my sister’s birthday. After more dancing, eating, drinking, and present-giving, the guests slowly started leaving, allowing the maids to finally start cleaning the ballroom.
My parents gave my sister a pair of beautiful hair ties with ornamental bells that were silver on first glance but reflected a glimmering array of colors underneath the light. My sister excitedly asked my mother to tie her hair for her into twin ponytails.
Despite the success of the party, my sister had been pretty disappointed that the Twin Horns couldn’t make it to her birthday since they were currently in a dungeon. However, she got over it quickly after seeing the wrapped boxes in my hands.
"Happy birthday, little sister." I gave her my present and handed the other box, which wasn’t as prettily decorated, to my mother.
"Wow! It’s so pretty!" My sister was ecstatic at the precious necklace, though she probably would never know how much it was worth.
"Th-This is gorgeous..." My mother’s reaction was actually even stronger than Ellie’s, her eyes locked on to the light pink gem embedded on the white gold chain.
"Keep it on at all times, okay?" I said directly to my sister, but I also looked at my mother so that she would catch my drift.
"Where in the world did you get something like this, Son?" My father was still a little tipsy but he was fully functional.
"I’m sure you met Mr. Gideon, right? I’m going to start working for him while he teaches me various things about magic. He gave me this as a token of my apprenticeship." It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t exactly the full truth either.
"Well, I’ll have to greet him one more time and thank him for taking care of you. I can’t believe my boy is going to attend Xyrus Academy soon! You’re going to kick some butt out there, right? Ow!" My mother smacked him upside the head at the last statement and gave me a big hug, my sister following suit.
"Thank you for these presents. We’ll both keep them on, right Ellie?" She hugged my sister too.
"Yeah! We’re matching now!" she chirped, a newfound glow on her face. I was glad that she liked it, but more importantly, relieved that she’d be safe. That was all that really mattered that this point.
After my sister’s birthday, my daily life had turned very repetitive. My birthday passed by as well, and although the Twin Horns couldn’t make it, their dungeon exploration leading them to the depths of the Continent, we did hear back from them at Guild Hall, indicating that they were still alive and okay. My birthday was nowhere near as grand as Ellie’s but I had no qualms with that.
Only a few people aside from my and Lilia’s family came, Gideon included, of course. He gave me exactly what I asked for, which was a seal for my attribute mana for fire and water.
"While it’s a little gaudy, keep this bracelet on at all times when you want to hide your mana attributes. It’s still a trial product from me, so be careful. The two charms on the bracelet can each hide and seal one elemental attribute’s mana from being sensed and gauged by others. By gods, I still can’t believe you were a quadra-elemental augmenter but..."
I’d gotten a lot closer to Gideon over these past few months and, while he was quite eccentric and quirky, he was a sincere and trustworthy person. However, I hadn’t indulged him in much besides my abilities as a mage, which he took as quite a shock.
My birthday was, all in all, a quiet and pleasant time with my family. Elijah and I quickly went back into training, and while his abilities had become a lot less powerful, he had become a lot more adept in controlling his Earth and Metal conjuring. Still, he had a lot to learn if he was going to catch up to me, but we both had time.
As for me, training was going by steadily. I was planning to only use earth and wind attribute mana, which probably accounted for twenty percent of my actual power, but that didn’t mean I planned on laying low and hiding myself at school. Why not enjoy the benefits of being a handsome and prodigal dual elemental augmenter? I had a family that I had to make proud, right?
Elijah was much more eager to go to school than I was, expressing on many occasions what kind of "hot" female friends he’d make. I kept telling him that we were only twelve and that girls weren’t "hot" at our age, but he filtered that out and said he was going to try and woo the older girls as well.
My father’s training resumed, albeit a bit slower after he used all the benefits from the beast core I’d brought, but he did manage to level up his fire augmentations, and his skills and abilities became a light orange rather than red like most other fire augmenters.
Like I expected, the beast will didn’t react to Elijah when I gave it to him. He couldn’t even sense anything, becoming confused as to why I still had it.
With Ellie enjoying school and bringing a closer group of friends over more often and my mother and Tabitha enjoying the free time of being housewives, life couldn’t be any more content. Seeing how peaceful and happy they were, I would give my life to make sure it lasted as long as possible.
The eventful day in the Dicathen Calendar, marking the day the first steam engine ship called the Dicatheous would set sail on a voyage to the other Continent, also marked another important day.
The Dicatheous was scheduled to set sail tomorrow, which was also the day both Elijah and I would start our first day of Xyrus Academy.
Dear Readers: As volume 2 has come to an end, I’d like to just thank you all for your wonderful support and amusing comments. Sorry for mere two chapter release—I promise that the releasing pace of this novel will get faster. I hope everyone will continue enjoying the upcoming adventures of Arthur and co. Also, please don’t forget to leave a review here for hesitant onlookers to see!